Is she Mexico’s next president?
A year from now, Claudia Sheinbaum is likely to be Mexico's next president. That’s partly because she’s widely considered the preferred choice of the still-remarkably popular current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has a 59% approval rating after four years in office and has unified leadership within his Morena party.
But it’s also because Sheinbaum is an undeniably impressive candidate who’s built a solid reputation as the leftist mayor of Mexico City. Like López Obrador, she pledges to “shrink the great inequalities” that have defined Mexican society throughout its history.
First, she must fend off challenges from within Morena from Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and Interior Secretary Adán Augusto López, but her commanding polling lead over both men and implied support from (officially neutral) López Obrador signal that’s likely to happen.
Then, she’ll have to defeat a unity opposition candidate, but given how little traction opposition parties have established against Morena, she’ll likely enter the race next year as a clear favorite.
If she wins next July, she’ll be the first female and first Jewish president in Mexico’s history. She’ll also be the first physicist. Herein lies the first of the two important differences between Sheinbaum and López Obrador, a president who was infamously cavalier about the public health risks posed by COVID and who has relied heavily on state-owned oil company PEMEX to help realize his populist vision for a more economically equitable Mexico.
In Mexico City, Sheinbaum took a much more science-based approach to the pandemic, with masks and social distancing as part of her virus management strategy. As for fossil fuels, Sheinbaum, who holds a Ph.D. in engineering, has worked on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Prize. That’s the foundation of her commitment to moving Mexico toward environmental sustainability.
The other difference is all about politics. Love him or hate him, López Obrador is a brilliant politician with a common touch. He knows how to speak over the heads of political elites to mobilize support among working-class voters.Does Sheinbaum share that talent? If she wins in 2024, that will be the true test of her ability to create a presidency unlike any Mexico has seen before.